When Jay was 15, a rescue squad volunteer responding to an emergency call left a lasting impression with him, and enabled Jay’s father to survive a crisis. Though his father soon passed away, the difference a volunteer made for his family inspired Jay to find a way to give back.
Within a year, Jay found himself in front of two uniformed volunteers at the local swimming pool, telling them he wanted to do something with the rescue squad. Too young to join this squad, he continued to pursue an opportunity.
His path to Rescue 14 began with a stint with a volunteer fire department, which was able to put him to work as a 16-year old. At the age of 21, he began working with VBVRS.
Today, Jay is a teacher, coach and father. He credits his work with the rescue squad for teaching him how to deal with adversity, and understanding human behavior. He shares his experiences with students in his government class as a living example of citizenship, and provides insight into the social needs of the community. His students have come along on rides, and some are now volunteers themselves.
For Jay, being a rescue squad volunteer means showing his students and his own children that doing the right thing, and being a responsible citizen of a democracy, is possible and expected.
The satisfaction Jay experiences with the squad comes in many different forms. From making a difference for an elderly woman, to being part of an effort to coordinate ambulance service for injured soldiers returning to the U.S., to bringing a baby into the world, the rewards are many. Yet, for Jay, one of the most striking realities of being part of sobering, life-jarring situations, is that he’s left with great appreciation for what he has.
“Our son Jack dove in the ocean and hit a sandbar headfirst; he was completely paralyzed from the neck down. Because we were watching, we were able to get to Jack before he drowned; he was face down and unable to move.
“I credit a quick and capable response by the Virginia Beach Rescue Squad and the Life Saving Service, and the nurses and doctors at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital with being the hands, feet, expertise, and care givers God used in saving Jack’s life and restoring him to full functionality.”
father of Jack Rash
Judy’s interest in volunteering with the rescue squad was born of helplessness. She had always wondered what it would be like to be the person who made a difference for someone in a crisis.But the feeling that she should be able to do more to help a neighbor who was suffering a heart attack stuck with Judy, and eventually led her to VBVRS. A wife and homemaker with two children, the time was right when her children were young teenagers, growing more independent and didn’t need a babysitter. With a simple phone call, Judy became a volunteer.
Basic first responder training – CPR and basic first aid – built her confidence. Judy says that the more she was able to do, the more she wanted to learn. EMT-B training followed, and Judy has now completed her training as a paramedic, all offered through the City of Virginia Beach. A ten-year volunteer, Judy contributes 30-40 hours per week.
“When you save somebody’s life, it’s something you hold in your heart that you can’t put into words.” Judy says that the uplifting experiences are life-fulfilling, and she considers the team of volunteers to be her family. She points out that, as in any family, some days are better than others, and she is constantly learning from her co-volunteers.For Judy, the situations she encounters are sometimes difficult. She shares the good and the bad with her children. “The biggest thing I can teach them from my experience is that good people make bad decisions too, and it doesn’t always have a good outcome. I hope that when they have to make a decision themselves that they’ll remember that.” Her children have gone on ride-alongs, and are interested in volunteering as well.
“There’s a place for everybody in this system. If you can’t find it yourself, there are people here to help you find how to fit in.” For this mother, sewing enthusiast, quilt-maker, tennis player, scrapbook keeper and sewing instructor, fitting in has resulted in knowing she’s making a difference.
Dear Rescuers, one and all,
What great peace of mind (and body) to know I can count on you. None of us can count on the weather or our relatives or “the check that’s in the mail” but we know we can count on the Rescue Squad.
Your perceptive volunteers saved my life (COPD attack) on September 5th. Again, your team answered a frantic call from me on March 31 when both O2 machines shorted out (I am on 8 liters 24/7) your rescuers have been insightful, professional and caring.
I am apologizing for not doing more sooner, but I find I am limited to writing small checks with HUGE gratitude.
With great admiration,
For Gary, helping people just comes naturally. A native New Yorker, he was waiting for an EMS career opportunity before deciding to join the Navy.
Once he arrived in Virginia Beach, it was at an event on the base at Oceana that he was drawn to an ambulance manned by a VBVRS volunteer offering recruitment information.
“When I heard that this is a volunteer system, it intrigued me that people did this for free.” Learning that the City offers free training and free uniforms, and volunteers are required to stand four 12-hour duties a month, Gary decided to submit paperwork and pursue training. His first day of EMS school, he broke his nose playing basketball. Yet he showed up, ready to honor his commitment.
A cook in the Navy with responsibility for feeding 460 people, Gary supervised 18 cooks. “Our job was to keep everybody fed and happy.” While at sea, he also became part of the medical team, his experience making him the go-to guy in situations when knowing how to handle crisis was more important than rank. “They looked to me to do a lot of things because they knew I’d seen more trauma than the corpsmen who worked at the hospital.”
Gary has come to admire the sincere dedication and desire to help people he sees in his fellow volunteers. School teachers, nurses, housewives, people with busy lives. Even a woman who has five children, and still volunteers her time. “To me, that’s really giving.”
One of the greatest benefits for Gary is knowing that his kids are proud of him. “I have a daughter who tells her friends ‘My dad runs rescue.’ It makes you feel good.” He also cites the heart-warming experience of meeting someone you’ve helped in the past who reminds you how much your help meant to them or a family member. One neighbor who he once assisted calls Gary her “rescue angel.”
“You go to somebody’s house and they’re in a crisis. They look at you as the expert, so you do what you need to do to get them to the hospital. And by the time you get them there, they’re either on their way to more advanced care, or on their way to recovery. You don’t need anybody to pat you on the back, it’s right there for you. You feel it right there – you go, ‘wow man, I helped somebody out.’ But when people come up to you, it’s even more fulfilling.”
For Gary, there is a personal perspective. He says, “I moved my mom here from New York, and I have a real affection for older people and young kids. When you go to somebody’s house I think, what would I want done if this was my mom.”
“It shows a path to people today that it’s not all about you, you, you. The city is built on the theme of volunteerism, and people need it. We have great support with the firemen and police department and it’s a great system.” Gary points out that there are volunteer opportunities at every level, even if responding to calls isn’t for you. “We need volunteers for taking care of ambulances, paperwork, admin positions. And this is a stepping stone for some people. Some have become firemen; some go into medicine or the nursing field.”
Even his efforts to recruit others into the squad have hit home for Gary. He once recruited a chief he had worked for, encouraging him join the rescue squad. Gary recently heard from this now paramedic telling of a medical crisis his son had experienced. “He sent me an e-mail thanking me for getting him in the system, because he was able to help save his son. I thought ‘I did that? That’s deep.’ It kind of gave me a little shiver.”
It was Thursday, May 5, around 10:30 a.m., and Tommy Holliday was on his way to a job installing floors. While driving alone down London Bridge Road the unthinkable happened. "According to witnesses," says Tommy, "my car and another car collided. After the collision, my vehicle struck a dirt ramp, went airborne and then flipped. Then it took off the tops of some trees and finally landed in an embankment 40 feet into the woods." During the course of the accident, an unknown sharp object sliced Tommy's throat open from ear to ear, nearly removing his head. It cut completely through his trachea and esophagus, just missing the carotid arteries and both jugulars.
Members of Princess Anne Courthouse Rescue Squad responded to the call within four minutes. Aggressive treatment of Tommy's injuries was initiated and he was transported to Sentara Virginia Beach General where the trauma team was waiting in the ER. Within ten minutes of his arrival at the ER Tommy was sent into surgery.
Today, after many months of healing, Tommy Holliday is home, fully recovered from his injuries. Tommy's wife Robin says, "I wish everyone could understand just how grateful I am to all those who saved my husband's life. The outstanding care and commitment we received from everyone went above and beyond anything imaginable and will never be forgotten. I thank God every morning."